VENEZUELA: Police break up anti-Chavez protest

On Thursday 4 February, police used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons to disperse hundreds of university protesters. Students started marching after the government pressured cable and satellite TV providers to drop an opposition channel. Demonstrations have appeared in cities across the country, accusing President Chavez of forcing Radio Caracas Television International off the airwaves to silence his critics.

Police Chief Carlos Meza said authorities broke up the protests because of feared clashes with pro-government supporters celebrating the 18th anniversary of Chavez's failed coup.

Thousands of Chavez backers gathered to listen to the President on 4 February, who hailed the 1992 military uprising as a justified rebellion seeking to topple a corrupt government that ignored the plight of Venezuela's poor. According to the Washington Post, Meza said that the protesteors had not been granted permission to march on that particular day.

IRAN: Lecturer sacked for attending dissident funeral

Dr Abbas Kazemi, a Tehran University professor working in the department of social sciences, has reportedly been dismissed from his position after chanting slogans during the funeral procession of prominent dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Seyed Ali Montazeri.

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran quoted a report written by a student at the university who revealed the professor's contract with Tehran University was originally valid until 21 September. The university has subsequently revoked that contract, relieving him of his duties as of 21 January. The professor is a prominent critic of the Iranian regime and is a former winner of the Kharazmi Prize.

US: Arab students disrupt speech by Israeli envoy

On 8 February, 100 Arab students tried to disrupt a speech delivered by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren at the University of California in Irvine. Oren is currently touring the West Coast giving lectures and decided to visit Irvine despite the fact that the local campus is considered hostile to Israel.

Two groups of 50 students gathered at both ends of the lecture hall which contained 700 people. Shortly after Oren began speaking, Arab students got up and started to interrupt him, some accusing Israel of murder.

Irvine has the second largest concentration of Arabs in the United States and is renowned for being outspoken with regards to Israeli politics.

ZIMBABWE: Students arrested for meeting at university

Police and university security guards last week detained Zimbabwe National Students Union leading personnel for conducting a meeting with students on the campus of the University of Zimbabwe, in which they discussed tuition fees and accommodation problems.

Union President Joshua Chinyere, Secretary General Grant Tabvurei, Treasurer Zivanai Muzorodzi and Education Secretary Artwell Chidy were arrested, as well as 10 university students.

ZINASU spokesman Wisdom Mugagara said students were beaten at the police station in the Avondale section of Harare. Mugagara said the union had sought assistance from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in obtaining the release of the students.

UK: Journal stem cell work blocked

Stem cell experts say they believe a small group of scientists is effectively vetoing high quality science from publication in journals, BBC News reported. They believe that these scientists are deliberately trying to stifle research that is in competition with their own. Fourteen leading stem cell researchers have reportedly written an open letter to journal editors in order to highlight their dissatisfaction.

Two internationally- renowned researchers have spoken to BBC News about their concerns. They are Robin Lovell-Badge, who is speaking in a personal capacity, and Austin Smith, from the University of Cambridge.

US: AAUP launches journal on academic freedom

The American Association of University Professors recently launched a new Journal of Academic Freedom. The first issue features articles that look back in time on academic freedom during the Cold War and also pieces analysing modern-day topics such as graduate student rights, the role of corporate influence in higher education and shifting ideas about faculty governance. See American Association of University Professors

* Daniel Sawney and Jonathan Travis work for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR)